Don’t look now, but roses are playing a crucial role in this.
My, the times, they are a changin’. Heading in to the New Year during a shortened week, scanning the headlines for a column idea it dawned on me- ROSES! Everything’s coming up roses… They serve as a perfect metaphor this month to observe just how much the sports industry has evolved and changed over the years.
The trope began January 1st with an all-time classic waged between the Georgia Bulldogs and Oklahoma Sooners during the Rose Bowl. What makes the Bulldogs 54–48 victory in the game particularly noteworthy is that it occurred not just during the Rose Bowl, but also as part of the College Football Playoffs. We all know how long that took…and of course the debate rages on.
Fans railed against the NCAA for years because of their disingenuous Bowl Championship Series system used to determine the matchup in the league’s title game. The BCS and previous iterations used a combination of polls, statistics, and computer selection methods to determine team rankings, with the top two schools left to face off in a one-and-done championship game. Prior to 2014, the Rose-and all other- Bowls were essentially window dressing; completely separate entities that had no bearing on who would emerge as the College Football Champion at season’s end.
Now, the crown is awarded at the end of a four team playoff, which involves two semifinals that rotate among the six major Bowl Games played on New Year’s Day. Two of the bowls-this year, the Rose and Sugar-act as the “first round” used to decide who will face off in the Championship game.
While the system is far from perfect, many are pleased that now it includes twice as many teams, involves some element of a playoff, and has two of the traditional Bowl Games remaining as a deciding factor in who wins the College Football National Championship every year.
After beating the Sooners in the Rose Bowl, the Georgia Bulldogs will play the Alabama Crimson Tide, who had to defeat the Clemson Tigers in the Sugar Bowl to make it to the College Football Playoff Championship Game. The Rose Bowl as part of a playoff leading up to a Championship Game: definitely not what the College Football “postseason” looked like when I was a little kid staying at Grandma’s to celebrate the New Year.
Later that night, fantasy football guru Matthew Berry began the New Year tweeting about ABC’s The Bachelor; infamous for the show’s climactic Rose Ceremony. One of ESPN and football’s biggest personalities has entered the fray analyzing…reality TV. (And no, that’s not my coy way of arguing that sports are the ultimate “reality TV.”)
Led by Matthew Berry and the “Fantasy Focus Football” podcast, ESPN has reached it’s sports/gaming tentacles into the tumultuous realm of overly-manufactured, rose-centric reality tv. The behemoth sports network has created a Fantasy Bachelor version of their popular esports game, complete with corresponding coverage. Did you ever envision a big-name sports personality doing play-by-play breakdowns of limo exits and date nights, forecasting who’s going to get the rose? Howard Cosell is somewhere spinning in his grave.
At the end of the month, we have Major League Baseball’s announcement of who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame- making Pete Rose an annual topic of conversation as votes are tallied in January. “How can it be a Hall of FAME without honoring the All-Time Hit King??!” (Of course Pete Rose has been ineligible for consideration ever since he was caught gambling on sport and banned from baseball by the MLB).
This year, that conversation has fallen into the periphery, with the real focus moving on to a debate about Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Steroids, and the role of Wins Above Replacement and other advanced statistics in assessing a player’s candidacy. Rose is no longer the hot-button issue; we’ll talk this month about the Hall of Fame without constantly hearing his name.
Moral of the story: Like a rose, sports is always growing and evolving. It’s beautiful (classic Rose Bowl game); emotionally jarring (Bachelor Rose ceremony); and can be full of…thorns, too (Rose, cheaters, and the scandals that infiltrate the game).
This piece has been presented to you by SMU’s Master of Science in Sport Management.
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